Fish response to the presence of hydrokinetic turbines as a sustainable energy solution

Sci Rep. 2023 May 8;13(1):7459. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-33000-w.


Hydrokinetic turbines such as vertical axis turbines (VATs) may provide decentralised, clean, sustainable energy for remote communities that lack access to the main energy grid or renewable resources. As traditional hydropower adversely alters aquatic ecosystems, it is essential to evaluate the environmental consequences of deploying VATs in riverine ecosystems to meet current and future energy needs. This study explores the implications of VATs on fish movement by observing fish swimming behaviour under two discharges, turbine operation states, and cross-sections confinements using scaled laboratory experiments. Our findings reveal that for cross-sectional confined conditions neither discharge, turbine presence, nor device operation, prevented fish from passing around and through the turbine both in the up- and downstream directions. However, fish spent the least time near the turbine vicinity and within the turbine’s turbulent, low-velocity wake, indicating avoidance behaviour. Swimming in a less confined test section further reduced the time spent within the turbine’s vicinity and wake, increasing the distance fish kept away from the device. Our results contribute to an understanding of VATs as low-risk hazards for fish swimming behaviour, advancing the potential of deploying VATs in rivers, estuaries or sea as a renewable energy solution for remote communities.

PMID:37156821 | PMC:PMC10167261 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-023-33000-w


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